I’ll be writing for the next month, the last month of my twenty-eighth year, to purge stories from my “romantic” history (inspired by recent abandonment).
In an effort to not be such a bitch, I’m going to protect the anonymity of my past lovers by calling them all Eddie. I have thereby entitled this series, “Eddie, I hate you”.
Eddie and I grew up together.
We went to a Jewish parochial school in North York, slumming it out in the basement of a synagogue, learning the Alef Bet, the ABCs and whatever provincial French requirements were forced on top of our very packed, very religious pray-every-day-and-don’t-ask-questions, very ineffectual (in my case) daily curriculum. Let’s face it, we were Jewish geniuses in the making with no real time for love.
But, what about sixth grade?
What about sixth grade: When puberty creeps up and all of a sudden school and sex become inappropriately intertwined.
We received sexual education from a soft-spoken, “edgy” tag team known as Fern and Anne, two women in their fifties who appeared to be volunteering their time and knowledge for the sake of our eventually underwhelming understanding of our bodies and our urges.
In sixth grade, the Boys and Girls were separated for sex-ed. Not for religious purposes. Just for the sake of Our Parts.
It is an afternoon away from gym class, educationally subsidized by Sex Ed, twelve of us Tween girls sitting around a lunch table in the room we term the Auditorium, used for the odd Theatre for Young Audiences show or the annual religious ceremonies we are forced to rehearse and perform for our parents or the occasional school meeting regarding a snowstorm or a religiously inspired bomb threat or Pizza Day. Fern begins the lesson with images of the uterus.
“The uterus houses your eggs.”
We do not understand metaphors or vaginas.
We all speak at once:
“What are eggs.”
“Why do eggs need a house.”
“Why is there a house in my vagina.”
“Where is the vagina.”
“That’s not what my vagina looks like.”
“Can you turn the picture, turn the picture maybe, turn the picture upside down…no. No that’s not a vagina.”
“I thought a vagina was a hole.”
“What is an egg.”
“Why do we have eggs.”
“Where do the eggs, where, why, what, why do they have houses.”
Fern waits. She waits, not with patience. She waits with a headache.
“This is the uterus. It is inside the vagina. The fallopian tubes over here lead to the ovaries. The eggs are in the ovaries. Women have eggs. That’s how you all were born. From eggs.”
Silence. I will never forget the question brought on by the gall of a very small girl whose breasts grow increasingly larger every day. This girl is curiously pre-menstrual, apparently. She has already spoken up against menstruation many times to our class, as if menstruation is a politically progressive reach towards feminine empowerment and she just isn’t going to have it, completely against cyclical demonstrations of women’s health, she opens her mouth to ask a question and we all know kind of what she’s going to say.
Fern does not know that we have all met before this class, at lunch, to discuss how disgusting the class and Fern happen to be. We sit around this table as pre-established NO THANK YOU types when it comes to all matters of feminine holes. Small Large Breasts opens her mouth and out she has it with Fern:
“Eggs aren’t real. How do you even know. That eggs. Are real.”
And we laugh as Fern has an existential mental breakdown.
I am already menstruating.
I sit at the table with eyes glued open, smile cemented, lips closed, watching the clock above Fern’s head, heavily aware that I am a joke, I am The Joke, I am a Woman, a title hilarious to this table of young Jewish girls who do not believe in the Ova.
I am an insecure child. I am emotionally developed far ahead of anyone else. I don’t know how to explain my overt excess of emotion regarding all things at all times but I know it’s there. I know I am different. The onset of my period canon-balls my maturation, my sense of alienation and, most dramatically, my erotic obsession with Eddie.
I am already a writer. I write everything, every day in these little brown notebooks my father’s company sells at wholesale. They have daisies on them. My mother keeps them in a cupboard in her office. I have to climb a chair to collect them. I take them for years, from fourth grade to sixth grade, until she eventually decides she wants to write again, discovers the absence of supplies and yells at me but for years I fill stolen notebooks with overly emotive information.
I use the writing to fictionalize circumstance so that “information” becomes fantasy. This method of recording is my first self-education in the act of defensive delusion or, more colloquially, Creativity. I protect myself with lies. I write them down. Lies become stories, become poems, become beauty to me.
I write an entire notebook about Eddie.
I write erotic poetry. I do not know where it comes from but I write detailed scenes, dedicated to him, written to him, as if he could hear me as I writing them. I write him a book of offerings. It never leaves my site. It makes me happy. It makes school exciting. I believe it’s working.
It’s working better than the spell I cast on him from a book entitled Spells that my mother bought me in Florida one time.
It’s working better than sitting beside him in computer class and leaning in to help him get through Mavis Beacon because the most he can accomplish is a slight giggle at the animations meant to teach him things.
This writing is working. It is working because I want it to work.
Looking back, I realize: Eddie is the essential Eddie, the guy I still go for: Slightly off, a little slow, burly, hairy despite age or physical accomplishment, quiet, accidentally funny, the kind of guy a lot of people cannot be around without a healthy dose of Patience. That’s my guy. Eddie was the first Eddie. He had a full beard in sixth grade, his voice was at least an octave lower than the average boy, he seemed accidental in so many ways, slurring his words, failing at school, not the greatest at hockey but hanging in there, slow. I really loved him.
I have my period.
This is the third cycle I’ve been through and it isn’t painful but it’s really upsetting.
For those of you who have never had your period, or, more specifically, for those of you who have penises, take a moment to imagine sitting in blood all day.
Never mind the cramps and the moods and the smell and having to dig for lost tampons and the stained sheets and the awkward offers of blow jobs because “please just keep your face away from my flow”, or even just having to use the word Flow, just forget all that, don’t worry about your genetically conditioned lack of empathy for the monthly hell we go through, we forgive you, just pretend for a moment, this moment that you are sitting in blood.
I have my period. I am sitting in blood.
My mother has given me a supply of Kotex pads with wings so that they won’t budge. It feels like I am sitting on a waffle. I sit without moving. If I move, river shall flood.
The Kotex isn’t optional. It’s what is given to me.
My mother has given me a Kit, a menstruation kit, complete with something called Moon Balm which I’m pretty sure is just Tiger Balm re-packaged to appear witchy, a first nations book apparently about menstruation entitled “The Rabbit, The Rock and The River” (which I never read) and a box of Kotex Pads. I will not buy my own feminine napkins until I am sixteen at which point I take the opportunity to purchase tampons but for now: Kotex Pads. Waffles.
My vice principal has enlisted a rule against going to the washroom during class because he’s a man and he’s stupid. Forgive me but, even at age eleven I remember thinking “He’s a man and he’s stupid”. It is probably illegal but definitely inhumane to prevent children from visiting the washroom but, new to our school, straight from Israel, unimpressed with Canadian children and our lazy efforts at avoiding the Hebrew language (apparently our fault that our education is failing us) he takes away bathroom privileges to keep us focused.
He is very wrong about the focus.
I cannot focus.
I know I am bleeding everywhere.
Just picture yourself sitting in blood all day. There is no real way to cross my legs. There is no real way to sit. Something will fall to the floor. People will see. People will see. Everyone will see. Eddie will see. He is sitting behind me.
The girls have declared over and over again that this is Gross. The boys know nothing about reality. Everyone will laugh.
I have eggs. I HAVE EGGS! One of them has escaped. This is not mythical. I am living proof and it is agonizing.
My hand is in the air but it is being ignored by my gigantic Hebrew teacher because she is in the middle of detailing the story of Some Bible Guy and Some Other Bible Guy. I am leaning far back in my seat. Eddie is sitting behind me scribbling on his desk.
“You move a lot,” he says
“Yeah you move a lot. I’m gonna tell.”
What will he even “Tell”? “Rachel is moving”. Is that a legitimate issue? I stop moving. I cross my legs so far against each other, it burns. I burn. I burn a hole through the chair, I’m sure.
He says it.
“You smell so bad.”
Eddie, I love you.
“You smell like bad.”
Eddie, I love you and I’m sorry I smell but it’s blood and it’s really a good thing because this way one day we’ll have children.
He laughs, “Why do you smell so bad.”
I run out of the room.
I don’t even know what I am going to do when I get to the washroom because all of my Kotex pads are in my lunch box (why?) and my lunchbox is in my locker and I can’t go to my locker because my vice principal is roaming the hallway looking for criminal urinators.
I sit in the stall and I think of Fern.
I remember, in class, Fern had shown us a video. A girl. A washroom. This moment. My life: It was in that video. I am that girl: She has no feminine napkins.
“If you are in need of a feminine napkin but have none on hand, you can bundle some toilet tissue, place it in your panties and remain calm until you are able to find the proper apparatus. Ask a teacher or a friend if they might have any with them. Should a stain appear on your panties, don’t worry, blood washes out easily with a little cold water.”
The girl in the video sits on a toilet, bundling paper into a wad of fear.
I do the same.
There is a stain. A big one but I look past it, don’t worry, blood washes out with a little cold water, valuable information for women and murderers. I blur the stain with my eyes, I don’t even notice that my sweatpants are undeniably stained as well.
I return to class.
No one is sitting. No one is learning. They have taken a brief recess to clean my chair.
I watch from the doorway.
Eddie sits with his friends in a corner.
Small Girl With Large Breasts is reading my poetry to him.
She took my notebook. I left it on my desk. I never leave it out of my site but I have left it on my desk and she took out.
Eddie’s head is down.
I watch for a moment.
Slow, I’ve always been slow to process environments and happenings. It takes me a moment to begin crying. I cry without noise, perfected skill because I do it every night at home, overly emotional as I am or maybe, sure, maybe it’s just my period.
The teacher is unfamiliar with how to help a Canadian girl through her first menses (it’s my third, but no one needs to know that today). She’s asked the English vice principal to come escort me to the office, call my mother, perhaps she can bring me new clothing or just take me home.
I go home.
Small Girl with Large Breasts stands in front of my locker holding my notebook.
“How could you write those things.”
“The sex things.”
“Poetry isn’t like that.”
“Yeah it is. I don’t know. I’m sorry, ok.”
“I don’t care.”
She flings the notebook at me.
It takes me eighteen years to write another poem.